Today, we’re going to get you thinking about your next dive trip! If you haven’t explored Cozumel, here’s why you should consider it for your next trip.
Cozumel, unlike its nearby busy tourist destinations Cancun and Playa del Carmen, offers a more laidback vibe on land, but that’s where laidback ends. Underwater, Cozumel offers some of the best diving in the Caribbean, all within easy reach.
At this surprisingly affordable diver’s paradise, you’ll enjoy access to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the most extensive coral reef system in the Northern Hemisphere. With year-round balmy weather, warm water and good visibility, you can find a wide variety of diving, from shallow shore dives, to drift dive, to wall dives.
the Island of the Swallows, located about 40 miles south of Cancun, in the Caribbean Sea off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
Whether you’re a beginner (or a bit rusty), an intermediate or advanced diver, you’ll find dive sites that match your experience in Cozumel. Here are a few of the highlights, although there are more than three dozen identified sites around the island.
Be aware that a few sites, such as Chankanaab Reef, are frequented by cruise ship excursions, so while still offering good diving, they can be busy with an “amusement park” vibe.
Accessible by boat off the southwest coast of the island, the Palancar Reef is a complex array of formations worth exploring on multiple dives. The four key areas are the Horseshoe, the Bricks, the Caves and the Gardens. Each area offers different depths and degrees of difficulty, so beginners and advanced divers alike will find plenty to do.
You’ll see soaring reef walls and cliffs, and venture into tunnels, swim-throughs and caves. The sea creatures you might encounter include hawksbill turtles, damselfish and barracudas.
Vast sponges, incredible coral formations, sea turtles and spotted eagle rays are what bring divers to this drift diving site. It sits in about 50’ to 130’ so it’s best for intermediate and advanced divers.
Off the southern end of the island, this diving area has shallow and deep regions.
Columbia Shallows form a coral garden paradise that’s dappled in sunlight and full of crabs, loggerhead turtles and a huge variety of fish. This can be a good option for beginners because it is less disturbed and busy as Paradise Reef, one of the more popular beginner spots farther north.
If you’re intermediate or above, take a boat out to Columbia Deep, a wall dive home to coral spires more than 90 feet in length and an array of caverns and tunnels. Spotted eagle rays and turtles are often seen cruising around.
On the southern end, Punta Sur is an advanced dive, from about 90’ to 130’. It can be rough on the surface with midwater currents, so being able to descend quickly is a must. Devils Throat, a coral swim-through tunnel is a must see! The other section, The Cathedral, offers an incredible cave opening with a cross-shaped growth of sponges, making an awesome photo op.
This shallow, but intermediate site on the east shore is off-the-beaten-path and is best visited during a “Norte,” when the wind is blowing hard on the west shore, making the seas a little calmer here. It’s believed a Spanish galleon sunk here in the 1700s, leaving behind about a dozen large cannons to explore.
Cozumel offers a range of accommodations and even the higher-end ones tend to be less expensive than similar accommodations in other dive destinations. A good bet is to book a dive package if you plan to dive a lot.
While not as busy as the mainland, you can still find some good margaritas and nightlife. Non-divers can snorkel or rent mopeds and cruise around the island. You can also explore a few Mayan ruins, shop in San Miguel, or relax on the beach.
When to Go: With year-round temps about 80°F, Cozumel is a year-round diving destination.
Average Surface Water Temps: Winter, averages 75°F / Summer, averages 85°F
Average Visibility: 100’ or more year-round
You can fly into Cozumel direct from a handful of U.S. cities or with a layover in somewhere like Dallas. Another option is to fly into Cancun, which offers non-stops from most major U.S. cities, and then take a short flight to Cozumel. If you want to spend some time in Playa del Carmen, about an hour south of Cancun, you can take a 45-minute ferry ride from there to Cozumel.
To get around the island, your main options are car rentals, taxi cabs, mopeds and walking.
Cozumel is great spot if you want to try underwater photography since the visibility is usually excellent and many dive sites are in shallower water with better light.
Need some gear before your next trip or want to take an advanced course? We have a huge online supply of gear or swing by Scuba Toys in Carrollton, TX and we’ll hook you up! We offer courses year-round.
Have you been to Cozumel? Share some tips with our readers in the comments section below!
Toadfish – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stokesrx/
Playa Palancar – https://www.flickr.com/photos/coreyann/
Spotted Eagle Ray – https://www.flickr.com/photos/amanderson/